I knew a young woman one time who, when she turned sixteen, was promised a car to drive. Needless to say, she was pretty stoked about the prospect of having her own wheels. She knew exactly what she wanted, too. This young woman wanted a new Camaro. She’d done her homework, so she knew just which option packages she wanted, all the bells and whistles. A fairly ambitious set of desires; but you’ve got to dream, right?
On the day she turned sixteen, she was ready to go with her parents down the dealership and order this fine piece of American engineering. Her dad poked his head in the door from outside and said, “Hey, sweetie! Come on out here. Mom and I have a surprise for you.”
She got up from the breakfast table and ran toward the door. She figured that this was even better than she expected. Her parents had anticipated her desires, and had gone out to surprise her by getting her the car of her dreams. Almost impossible to contain her excitement.
But as she cleared the side door and looked out in the driveway, what awaited her there wasn’t a new Camaro, but a ten year-old Pontiac Bonneville. Huge thing. It was the color of a rusted boat anchor. Looking at her “new” car, the birthday girl was crestfallen. She shot a glance at her parents. “But I wanted a Camaro,” she pouted.
Her dad said, “People in Hell want ice water. You don’t always get your first choice. This is a good car—it runs well and it’s safe.”
She broke down in tears. “Well, I’m not driving that thing around town. What will my friends think?”
And she didn’t drive it, at least for a while … until she couldn’t stand staying at home doing nothing. Then all of a sudden that Pontiac Bonneville didn’t look so bad. (Well, actually it did still look bad, but you know what I mean.)
I think about that Bonneville when I hear congregations complaining about not being who they think they should be, about not having the kind of resources to do really “important” work. You ever hear that kind of self-pity coming out of a congregation?
“We’re so small. We look at other congregations, and we’re embarrassed about what we have to offer. We don’t have a family life center. No sparkling youth program. Our ability to send our outreach dollars to the home office has been severely hampered. The whole thing is just really depressing.”
And often these congregations, because they have so little confidence, end up doing very little. Actually, let me rephrase that: These congregations end up doing very little of anything new or brave or exciting. Despairing of ever being Camaros, they’ve failed to understand that being a Pontiac Bonneville is still enough to get the job done.
What’s the job?
Of a car? To take you from point A to point B. And, given the constraints speed limits (as well as the laws of physics), a well maintained Bonneville can do that as well as a Camaro.
What’s the job of a congregation?
To worship God and help equip followers of Jesus for the reign of God.
And here’s the thing: You can do that without a family life center, without a sparkling youth program, and without a lot of extra money.
You shame the angels if you don’t live bravely with what you have.